What is wrong with this town? It has no sense of humor and now demands that young kids behave a little adults, if not robots.
This is the impression that all the negative reactions to the story of the PALY senior prank gives me... There was a time when senior pranks were an accepted tradition (as long as no one was hurt). No longer here.
However, I think the change goes beyond this senior prank story, is much more pervasive, and rather sad for our children. And this is what really alarms me.
I have noticed changes in recent years in Palo Alto schools. My youngest child is 9 years younger than his oldest sibling. They all went through Palo Alto schools, the same schools. Here is an example of the changes I am talking about:
The other day, I visited my youngest child's elementary school for their reenactment of the Williamsburg Colonial days. I was struck by how earnest, unenthusiastic, almost fearful those kids were.
When I arrived, I walked up to various stations, and was greeted by statements that the kids were "not allowed to talk," that "it was not time yet," as they were taking sideways glances at their teachers and the nearby adult chaperones... This, even though those kids were just milling around, doing nothing else, just waiting for the green light to talk, while something else was going on far away, outside. Once they were allowed to talk, I heard bland, robotic, memorized explanations of their stations.
What a sad contrast with nine years ago !
When I got home afterwards, I pulled my photo album from 9 years ago and looked at my photos of the exact same event in my oldest child's fifth grade class back then. Same Palo Alto elementary school, same class, same theme, basically the same activities, and same set up. The photos reinforced my memories, although they were still vivid.
Nine years ago, I saw smiling kids who were enjoying the project. No prohibition to talk to visitors at certain times, no bland, robotic, memorized presentations. Kids at ease, who did know their topics quite well, enjoying what they were doing, and were enthusiastic to talk about them in an informal manner. People were having a good time all around while learning. A happy scene, as opposed to this year's stressed out, sad scene.
The spark is gone. At all levels. I am sad for our children.